A healthy forest is a diverse forest
There used to be a creek behind the house we live in and Im pretty sure the King of Spain and and multiple native peoples used it on the reg. You can ask me the story of the land later. The point is, there isn't one anymore. A creek I mean. (Apparently there is still a king of Spain- I just looked it up).
You can only find water in the creek bed when it floods. But it clearly was a water source for many many decades, as told by the sprawling live oak trees that have curled their root systems deep into the banks of what was. They are trees planted by streams of water, whose leaves wont wither in times of drought. (Psalms 1). Good job trees. Except, the water dried up. Years ago when settlers arrived in the hill country, they put up fences, contained wildfires and controlled the diverse savanna's and grasslands and the native landscape began to change. The cedars began to kill off many of the other plants, and in the case of our little creek- drank up all the water. But it made life a little easier for them.
Last year our family had the chance to hike in the dense and beautiful woods of Tennesse. Since we live in the woods, we weren't expecting to be surprised by the experience. My Hill country Texas woods consist of a few different trees. But these Tennesse woods were so incredibly diverse that we literally had to stop counting the various types of trees and foliage we were finding. It was obviously a healthy forest as there was both decaying logs from fire and new growth on the ground.
So why all the talk about forests and trees, Ash (also a type of tree may I add...)?
Let me share with you a verse that stuck out to me a few years back. It is such a telling example of God's heart and design for beauty, fullness and restoration.
“The poor and needy search for water,
but there is none;
their tongues are parched with thirst.
But I the Lord will answer them;
I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them.
18 I will make rivers flow on barren heights,
and springs within the valleys.
I will turn the desert into pools of water,
and the parched ground into springs.
19 I will put in the desert
the cedar and the acacia, the myrtle and the olive.
I will set junipers in the wasteland,
the fir and the cypress together,
20 so that people may see and know,
may consider and understand,
that the hand of the Lord has done this,
that the Holy One of Israel has created it.
Diversity is a bit of a hot topic; a buzz word per-say. And yet it seems God has been pretty keen on the idea for a long time. God's answer for a dry wasteland is a beautifully diversified forest that will spring up from the desert. He doesn't just say that He will plant a tree in the desert to bring relief. He creates an extensive list of the different types of trees He will plant next to one in other for the purpose of letting the world know that it was a work of God alone.
If you do a little digging- you'll find that the healthiest forests are not contained and controlled. They don't consist of one or two types of trees that all look alike. Healthy forests are made of hundreds of plants, trees, animals, and insect species that work with each other to keep it strong, durable, and able to withstand and grow back from natural disasters. As the body of Christ, when we see diversity as simply something that will be good for a photo op, a hot topic to get on the "right" side of, or even a command to simply obey- we are missing God's heart for diversity in the first place. In Isaiah 41, He says that He will plant these trees TOGETHER so that people may see, know, consider, understand that He created it. A diverse body of Christ is healthy, vibrant, beautiful, strong and more able to withstand the fires. A diverse body will encourage those walking in the desert to see that streams of life are possible. A diverse body will be mutually beneficial to one another as each person will come with their own strengths (and weaknesses) BOTH vital to climate of growth. A diverse body will point to the Holy One and say- Only God could do this in this desert wasteland of a time.
If your idea of a diverse communal forest looks like a lot of pine trees with one token oak tree, and perhaps several lovely willow trees, guys you're missing the beauty. Until diversity is valued for more than a photo op or a check box, we will be cut deep when the wildfires come. If we want to be like trees planted by streams of water that don't worry when the drought comes- let's look around and make sure our "together" is as diverse as God's idea of a redemptive forest- for the sake of the world.